Ruehlig challenges Belle’s election to County School Board due to alleged lies on ballot statement

Files complaint with District Attorney, possible punishment of up to three years in prison

By John Crowder

The highly contentious race for Area 5 Trustee of the Contra Costa County Board of Education has taken another dramatic turn, as incumbent Cynthia Ruehlig sent a letter to Contra Costa County District Attorney Mark Peterson on Saturday, November 8, asking for an investigation into alleged election code violations by her opponent, Jeff Belle, who beat her by 336 votes, in last Tuesday’s election.

The letter (Jeffery Belle Complaint) sent by Ruehlig charges that Belle violated California Election Code Section 18203, which reads,

Any person who files or submits for filing a nomination paper or declaration of candidacy knowing that it or any part of it has been made falsely is punishable by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1000) or by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of section 1170 of the penal code for 16 months or two or three years or by both that fine and imprisonment.”

In her letter, Ruehlig says that Belle made false claims on his candidate statement, his ballot designation worksheet, and prior to these submissions, on applications to serve on various county commissions.

One such claim is Belle’s representation of himself on his candidate statement as a “Registered Respiratory Therapist.” Ruehlig references a letter dated June 20, 2014, in which the Respiratory Care Board of California cites Belle for “misrepresenting himself as a respiratory care practitioner and engaging in the practice of respiratory care without a current and valid license in California.” In this letter, he was ordered to “immediately cease and desist any and all unlicensed activities pursuant to the Respiratory Care Practice Act” and ordered to pay a fine of $8200 for violating provisions of the Act.

Also on his candidate statement, Belle claims to have a “Bachelor’s degree in Political Science.” He makes the same claim on his application, received by the city of Antioch on July 30, 2013, to represent the city on the Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) Citizens Advisory Committee (CCTA CAC Jeff Belle application001), referencing Oklahoma City University and American University as the schools from which he studied for his degree. The claim to have a “B.S. degree” is also made by Belle on his application to sit on the Contra Costa County Emergency Medical Care Committee (CCCEMCC) – (Belle, Jeffery 10-26-12). Belle’s bio, attached to the application for the CCCEMCC, lists part of his education as follows:

1984-1988 Oklahoma City University, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Political Science with emphasis on Public Administration.

With respect to Belle’s claim of a Bachelor’s degree, Ruehlig cites an article updated on the Contra Costa Times website on October 17, 2014, which states, in part, “…it appears Belle has no college degree.” This was corroborated by Herald staff who contacted the Office of the Registrar at Oklahoma City University and was told that Belle did not receive a degree from them. Further, at a media event held by Belle on October 22 of this year, he repeatedly refused to answer questions posed by CBS Channel 5 television reporter Da Lin asking whether or not he had a Bachelor’s degree at all.

Ruehlig also takes issue with Belle’s claim on his candidate statement that he is “completing a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree in Health Policy.” She points out that, at the institutions at which Belle claims to be studying, a Bachelor’s degree is a prerequisite for entering any such program.

Ruehlig concludes her letter to the District Attorney by stating, “Mr. Belle knew, or should have known, at the time he signed his declaration of candidacy, the consequence of providing fake educational credentials in election documents. His criminal action is made even more egregious as Mr. Belle aspires to a position of Trustee in an educational agency. Mr. Belle has made a mockery of the election process and should be charged with a felony punishable with the maximum penalty allowed by law of $1000 and 3 years imprisonment.” She includes almost 30 pages of documents supporting her complaint.

In a statement provided by Ruehlig this morning, she said, “Mr. Belle’s behavior is both an affront to the office he seeks and potentially dangerous, as it appears that he does not have the sound mental state and solid character of someone who should be entrusted to visit your child at school and make decisions about their education.”

In an article published by the Herald on October 28 (which can be viewed by clicking here, Belle offered an explanation about the questions raised concerning discrepancies in his education claims.

I still owe American University for room and board for that semester of almost $3000,” Belle claimed. “However, in 1989 I walked in the graduation, and they acknowledge it, but they won’t confer the degree, until then.” He added, “I don’t have to take any more courses.”

Belle states the B.S. degree is from Oklahoma City University, not American University. The Office of the Registrar at Oklahoma City University did confirm that Belle studied there, and that he did not receive a degree, but they were unable to provide any further information. American University could not be reached for comment as of this writing.

However, in that same article it states, “Belle explained that Oklahoma City University works with American University in a program called the Washington Semester, the hours from which applied to his degree in Political Science.”

Ruehlig had challenged Belle’s ballot designation of “Educator” after his candidate statement was made public, and within the 10 days required, according to both Ruehlig and County Clerk-Recorder Joe Canciamilla.

We looked into it and decided that it was acceptable,” Canciamilla stated. “However, she didn’t challenge his ballot statement. No one did within the 10 days.”

When contacted regarding Supervisor Mary Piepho’s appointment of Belle to the county’s Emergency Medical Care Commission, her staff simply said that Belle’s term expired on September 30, 2014, and he was not re-appointed.

When contacted about Belle’s appointment to the CCTA committee by the Antioch City Council, which occurred at the their meeting on August 13, 2013, Mayor Wade Harper explained the appointment process. It includes reviewing information submitted by applicants and conducting interviews, usually by the mayor and one or more members of city staff. He said that, in light of these revelations, he was having discussions with the staff regarding the vetting process for such appointments.

On the District Attorney’s website information is available regarding government corruption, including a complaint form that can be filled out regarding allegations of election and/or campaign law violations. On the form it states that not all complaints are investigated. Herald staff were unable to obtain a statement from their office with respect to this case at the time of publication.

Belle was also contacted by email regarding the action now being taken by Ruehlig. He replied that, although he was out of town and unable to speak to us, “My campaign is checking into the ‘acts of desperation’ and will be back in touch as soon as we have more information.”

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

the attachments to this post:

CCTA CAC Jeff Belle application001
CCTA CAC Jeff Belle application001

Belle, Jeffery 10-26-12
Belle, Jeffery 10-26-12

Jeffery Belle Complaint
Jeffery Belle Complaint

10 Comments to “Ruehlig challenges Belle’s election to County School Board due to alleged lies on ballot statement”

  1. Jeff says:

    Pretty sad day when incumbents and the local newspaper take to pettifogging of statue because the voters don’t want them in office.
    To God be the glory!
    They couldn’t beat me with the people and won’t beat me with absurd allegations either.
    No one can stop the plan or will of The Lord! My opponents shall Not prevail!

    • Reginald Jamal Brown says:


    • Joe says:

      So do you have an actual answer for this allegation, other than “To God be the glory?”

      Do you have a bachelor’s degree? Are you licensed to practice respiratory therapy?

    • Casey says:

      The only truth that I have ever heard from you is “No one can stop the plan or will of The Lord!” gads….I am in shock…..check out Colossians 2:15 “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” God has made a public spectacle of you… that His “Will” will be done.

    • Publisher says:

      I find it interesting when a candidate tries to blame the media for their actions, because of reporting on them and their campaigns and related stories, such as this.
      We merely report the news. We don’t make it.
      “Pettifogging?” The definition is “1. insignificant; petty: pettifogging details. 2. dishonest or unethical in insignificant matters; meanly petty.” And “absurd allegations?”
      It will be up to the District Attorney to decide if lying to the public about one’s education on a candidate statement is insignificant, petty or absurd.
      Allen Payton, Publisher

  2. Concerned Antioch Resident says:

    The election of Jeff Belle goes to show the ignorance of the majority voters. The electoral system has reached a new low in standards. If this be the “will of the Lord”, God help us all!!

  3. Kathryn says:

    this man is a fraud, criminal and a disgrace! He belongs in jail

  4. Dave says:

    Wow – this story should go to out at least state wide. It’s bad enough that elected officials get corrupted once IN office – but to elect someone predisposed to the corruption process is pitiful. And good for Ruehlig for standing up for the law, it’s obvious that there is no vetting process at this level of government so it’s left to those that care to see it through. Hopefully the loser in this matter will have to pay the legal costs of who prevails.

  5. Casey says:

    Oklahoma District Attorney Investigator Matt Steadman, office # 405-713-7149 or stated that Jeff had at least 40 bogus check charges in that county alone… many more small businesses didn’t bother to even file against him?

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